An unpredictable group at the men’s football World Cup 2022 sees favourites Belgium, ageing Croatia, youthful Canada and dark horses Morocco aiming for a place in the last 16.
The standout fixture takes place on December 1 between Croatia, who made the final of the 2018 tournament, and third place finishers Belgium.
The Red Devils finished third at the 2018 World Cup but will hope to do one better and make the final with a largely unchanged core of players.
Captain Eden Hazard has struggled with consistent injury problems following his move to Real Madrid but on his day can be incredibly dangerous.
Club teammate Thibaut Courtois is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world and will hope to win a second Golden Glove award.
They lost 2-1 in the quarterfinals to eventual Euro 2020 winners Italy, but Roberto Martinez’s side will likely stick to the 3-4-3 setup that has characterised their play for the past six years.
Star Player: Kevin De Bruyne is one of the finest players in world football. He is capable of picking apart any defence and will be key to Belgium’s success in both creating chances for the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Hazard whilst also scoring goals of his own.
This will be Canada’s first World Cup appearance since 1986 and although they topped the CONCACAF qualifying group, they will be underdogs in this table.
Club Brugge striker Cyle Larin will be favourite to score at the tournament after bagging 25 goals in his 54 appearances for Les Rouges.
Their English manager, John Herdman, is relatively unheard of, however since taking over in 2018, he has lifted the team from 72nd to 33rd in the FIFA world rankings, despite this being his first managerial role in men’s football.
There is huge potential in the youthful Canadian squad, but it will be difficult against such rigorous competition.
Star Player: Alphonso Davies, the 22-year-old four-time Bundesliga winner with Bayern Munich, is not only excellent in his defensive left-back position but is capable of scoring and is rapid on the wing.
The Atlas Lions will be hoping to improve on their bottom-place group finish at the last World Cup in 2018, after facing tricky opponents in Spain, Portugal and Iran.
There will be a welcome return for Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech who has been included in the squad after a short retirement.
The African side had a clean sweep in their qualifying group stage, scoring 20 and conceding two.
Sevilla forward Youssef En-Nesyri will be one to watch, scoring 14 goals in 48 appearances for the national side, with PSG right-back Achraf Hakimi also expected to perform well in Qatar.
More recently, the team were knocked out of the 2022 African Cup of Nations by Egypt at the quarter-final stage following a hard-fought 2-1 defeat after extra time.
Star Player: Hakim Ziyech, with 17 goals in 42 appearances for Morocco, the Champions League and Club World Cup winner will be expected to start every game and showcase his talent from set-pieces.
Zlatko Dalić’s side went on a wonderful journey to the 2018 final and were only bettered by France.
Qatar 2022 will be the last dance for many of their finest players including 2018 Golden Ball winner Luka Modric, who will retire from international football after the tournament.
He is backed up by veteran Ivan Perišić who scored in the semi and the final of the last tournament alongside young defender Joško Gvardiol, getting his first taste of World Cup experience at only 20.
They enter in strong form having topped their Nations League group, beating France and Denmark in the process.
Star player: Luka Modrić, the midfield maestro isn’t perhaps as dominant as when he won the Ballon d’Or in 2018 but is still as creative and incredible as ever, be it through trivela assists or world-class vision, Modrić is Croatia’s star.
Featured image credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 – by Кирилл Венедиктов